All About Influences
We are not creating stories in a vacuum, so we all have writing influences. I also often say writers need to research ‘what’s gone before’ when it comes to …
- genre conventions
- character tropes
- plotting archetypes
Since B2W needs to practice what it preaches, I sit down at the beginning of EVERY project and do this too.
The Coven Is Out Now
Since The Coven is released NOW, I thought I would share 14 books, TV shows and movies that influenced me as I was writing.
Some of these influences may be a no-brainer. Others may be surprising or out of the left field. I would love to hear YOUR writing influences so make sure you share your own in the comments. Enjoy!
1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The fact Margaret Atwood is one of B2W’s influences should come as zero surprise to … well, NO ONE!
Atwood’s book is a seminal feminist dystopia, plus its TV series is the gold standard on screenwriting craft. I found myself drawing on the complexity of June/Offred’s characterisation from the TV show in particular when writing The Coven.
2) The Power by Naomi Alderman
Naomi Alderman’s 2016 book had a profound effect on me. In the story, women discover they can release electrical jolts from their fingertips and become the dominant gender. I loved Alderman’s vision of a society turned upside down and what this means, especially from a political perspective. I particularly loved her ‘historical notes’ as if it was a textbook. There is a TV series in the works, so watch out for it.
3) Buffy The Vampire Slayer
No list on female leads would be complete without Buffy! She’s an iconic character everyone seems to love. Whether fighting vampires or loving them, this series showed everyone what was possible for female characters at last.
I rewatched the series recently and was surprised to discover how dated it seemed, but this is because every major female lead since owes a big debt to this show. I needed to consider how to update this as I worked on mine.
4) The Fireman by Joe Hill
This is one of my favourite pandemic thrillers ever, written back in 2010. That’s right, this book is set in a pandemic, but it ain’t like Covid … Instead the unfortunate people who catch ‘Dragon Scale’ spontaneously COMBUST.
When pregnant nurse (and keyworker!) Harper catches the disease, she wants to live long enough to deliver her baby. She’s heard of ‘The Fireman’, a guy who can apparently control the flames and NOT die.
She sets out in search of him, along with allies … and her mad ex-husband on her tail. This is such a rich storyworld, filled with three-dimensional characters and commentary on important themes. I wanted the same for The Coven.
5) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
‘I thought you were a feminist?? Why do you like Twilight??’
This was a real email I got recently.
First things first, I don’t believe there’s anything inherently anti-feminist about Bella Swann or her arc. I’ve never subscribed to the ‘role model’ idea of female leads, plus she goes from good girl to badass across the franchise.
But whatever you personally think, I love the concept behind this story … It’s basically Romeo And Juliet for teenagers, only Romeo is a vampire. A bombproof central concept!
Also, the world-building is fantastic. My favourite has to be the notion vampires don’t need to breathe … so they sink to the bottom of the ocean and walk across the seabed to other countries. Love it. I wanted to ensure I included captivating little details like that in The Coven.
6) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Everyone knows this one, Katniss Everdeen is another iconic character … and rightly so. What’s unusual about her is she is NOT just another ‘kickass hottie’. She’s nuanced and layered, plus the book’s commentary on mental health is fantastic.
I love the movies too. The difficult relationship Katniss has with her mother is so well drawn but does not blame her mother directly, but the system … Katniss feels let down in having to grow up ‘too soon’. This gives her an inflated sense of responsibility and drives her character arc. She tries to save everyone and crucially, doesn’t always succeed.
As someone who wants better mental health representation in fiction, I found myself thinking about Katniss a lot when I was writing.
7) Vox by Christina Dalcher
What if we all lived in a misogynistic society where women could only speak 100 words a day? To enforce this rule, women and girls are all fitted with a shock bracelet in Vox by Christina Dalcher.
I LOVE this concept, it’s so simple and yet so horribly plausible. I wanted to provoke a similar gut-wrenching possibility for turning society against witches in The Coven.
8) A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Another strong concept, this time a witch and vampire fall in love … Yet as well as inter-species relationships being banned, our main characters Matthew and Diana must complete a quest to save ALL creatures. Check out my ‘Book Versus TV series’ case study to see the difference between the page and what ends up on screen.
Another classic TV show from my teen years! Though Charmed returned to our screens with a modern version in 2018, I was thinking about the original when writing The Coven.
The series followed three sisters – ‘The Charmed Ones’ – and most powerful good witches of all time. Every week they would use their combined ‘Power of Three’ to protect innocents from evil. I reference a similar idea of the ‘power of Three’ in The Coven too.
10) End Of The World Running Club by Adrian Walker
When meteorites hit the UK, Edgar and a small group of others get left behind when everyone else is taken to Cornwall, so they can escape to the continent away from our little wrecked island. Roads are impassable, all the helicopters at the military base have left. This means Edgar and his friends must literally RUN, on foot from Scotland to the Westcountry to be reunited with their families. On the way this band of misfits have to face unbelievable peril as the whole country goes completely Mad Max.
What I particularly like about this book is it really plays with our expectations when it comes to characters. Grimes, our boss soldier in charge is a woman, for starters. Bryce, a big bear of a man who lived like an overgrown student before the asteroids hit, is super emotionally literate. This is in comparison to antihero Edgar, the supposed family man. I wanted to subvert expectations with my characters in The Coven, too.
11) The 100
I have never read the Kass Morgan books, though they are on my TBR (‘to be read’) pile. The CW’s TV series finally finished last year after seven seasons. It was overall one of the most progressive shows of the last ten years, including feminist themes and allegorical commentary about the state of society. Whilst it didn’t get everything right (coughCLEXAcough), it was surprisingly on point for most of it when it came to representation.
The 100 was also built around a matriarchal storyworld, something STILL relatively rare in storytelling today. I thought about this a lot when I was creating The Gathering, the Elemental commune in Cornwall my characters must travel to in The Coven.
12) The Craft (1996)
This 1996 movie about four outcast teenage girls embracing witchcraft was a surprise hit and has quite the cult following. Obviously it has dated but I still LOVE it, especially Nancy. What captured my attention was her obvious antagonistic function, yet we understand why she does what she does. This was one of the first times I understood we could empathise with villains. Whilst many of the villains in The Coven are pure evil, there’s at least one who takes after Nancy. See if you can guess which one!
13) Imajica by Clive Barker
Imajica is one of the few fantasy novels I’ve read, plus it’s a rare book I read more than once. Barker himself considers it to be his best work and I am inclined to agree. Covering such themes as God, gender, sex and death, Barker creates a storyworld that is meticulous in its detail.
I absolutely love Barker’s theory of parallel worlds and how there are five dominions … Earth is ‘The Unreconciled Dominion’. Most of Earth inhabitants are unaware of the other four dominions because we no longer believe in magic. I adored the journey dual protagonists Gentle and Jude take in this book, so it made sense to have two protagonists in The Coven.
14) Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame
Another that needs no introduction! I’ve always believed novel writing and screenwriting are ‘the same’ in that they’re both storytelling. I wanted to capture the high octane action of superhero movies in The Coven, especially for the big battle finale at the end.
This meant I spent a lot of time re-watching these two Avengers movies because I love their set pieces. I wanted to ensure I could bring something similar to my book. I also spoke to screenwriters and producers who worked in the studio system so I could understand why set pieces connect with audiences so well. Some early reviews have called The Coven ‘cinematic’, so it seems like it worked!
What Are YOUR Writing Influences?
Which of these books, movies and TV shows have you enjoyed? Which influences prompted YOU to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard? Are any of my influences the same as yours … or do you have any different ones? Share in the comments, can’t wait to see what you love!
Thanks, I’ve added some of these to my reading list. I read Books of Blood and Cabal by Clive Barker last year and loved them, especially Books of Blood.